Jan 12, 2002
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) - Arizona counts on Jason Gardner to carry the team down the stretch. He did just that Saturday night.
Gardner, the lone returning starter from last year's NCAA tournament runner-up, scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half and added six assists to lead the No. 20 Wildcats past Washington 74-69.
"The main thing is Jason. He hits those huge shots," teammate Luke Walton said.
Gardner's 3-pointer with 2:45 left made it 70-64 and he converted two free throws in the final 47 seconds.
"He's as good as there is in the country," Washington coach Bob Bender said.
Grant Leep's 3-pointer from the right wing with 30.7 seconds to go pulled Washington within 71-69. Gardner made a free throw, Washington's Curtis Allen missed a 3 that would have tied it, and Salim Stoudamire added two free throws for the Wildcats (11-4, 4-2 Pac-10) with 16.3 seconds left.
Stoudamire made all six of his free throws to improve to 39-of-40 for the season and finished with 16 points.
Doug Wrenn had his third straight 20-point game for the Huskies (7-9, 1-5), scoring 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting. He has scored 77 points in his last three games and is the first Washington player to have three straight games with 20 or more since Todd MacCulloch in 1999.
"There's going to come a time when we finish a game against a big-time team but we let this one get away," Wrenn said.
Rick Anderson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Channing Frye added 11 points as the Wildcats won consecutive road games for the first time this season. Arizona is 6-0 in games decided by five points or fewer.
"They need some games like that," Wildcats coach Lute Olson said of his young lineup. "I don't need any games like that."
Five of the eight players used by Arizona were freshmen, including two starters.
Washington's David Dixon had 11 points and 14 rebounds, including three putbacks in the second half. Allen added 16 points for the Huskies, who lost for the seventh time in eight games.
Gardner's 3-pointer with 6:12 left capped a 9-1 run that put Arizona ahead 64-58. The Wildcats shot 42 percent in the second half but made it to the foul line 22 times, making 14.
"We're winning close games, that's the main thing," Gardner said. "We're starting to understand what the Pac-10 is all about."
Walton struggled in his second game back after missing three games with a strained right Achilles' tendon. He had six points on 3-of-9 shooting and was called for a technical foul early in the second half.
In the first half, Arizona's zone defense - with Walton playing high in the middle - made it hard for Allen to penetrate. The Huskies had difficulty moving the ball and doing what they do best, which is shoot from the perimeter.
Washington, which came into the game shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, went just 6-for-22 on 3s.
"It was almost as if it was the first time seeing the zone," Bender said. "I don't think we had as much success with the 3 overall, and that hurt us mentally in attacking the zone."
Arizona used runs of 15-0 and 8-0 to take a 33-21 lead on Frye's dunk with 4:08 left in the first half. Washington then produced an 11-2 run of its own to end the half with the Wildcats leading 35-32. Wrenn scored seven in the spurt.